In the late ’20s and early ’30s, a Japanese immigrant to American named Chiura Obata created some of the greatest woodblock prints and watercolors in history. The style is distinctly Eastern, but the subject matter he focused on was clearly Western. His best work is of Yosemite, in which he depicts mountains, valleys, and towering trees. Obata is one of the textbook examples of “East meets West.”
The Horse’s Ha, in a strange way, reminds me a lot of Obata. The strings and chant-like vocals bring to mind an Eastern landscape, but the chugging beat drives an American railroad right through the center of it. That’s the genius of Jim Elkington and Janet Beveridge Bean. It’s folk that spans the continents.
The Horse’s Ha – “Asleep In A Waterfall” (from Of The Cathmawr Yards)
The Horse’s Ha will be at the Empty Bottle tonight (9/15) and are playing the Cowboy Monkey on Friday as part of the Pygmalion Festival in Champaign. Here’s a list from Elkington.
1) The Raincoats – “Only Loved At Night” (from The Kitchen Tapes) – “Janet was talking about this being a good song to do a cover of. It’s a great song from an album that still sounds completely unique—even bands who go out of their way to rip off The Raincoats don’t seem to manage it.”
2) Davy Graham – “No Preacher Blues” (from Midnight Man) – “Davy Graham lit a fire under the backsides of the people who are known for the British Folk revival of the 1960s. His records are considered to be folk music but they’re not at all—he didn’t distinguish much between different genres and would blend folk, jazz, show-tunes and world music in a bizarre and very personal blend. I always listen to this song after I’ve played somewhere. For some reason.”
3) Cocteau Twins – “Cherry-Coloured Funk” (from Heaven Or Las Vegas) – “I’ve been listening to this album every few months since it came out about 20 years ago and it’s mainly because of this song. You can hear their whole manifesto in it.”
4) Focus – “House Of The King” (from the soundtrack to Saxondale) – “This song is the title music for an English sit-com called Saxondale, which is about a pest control officer with anger-management issues who was previously a roadie for Deep Purple. I thought this song was Jethro Tull until I actually looked it up. It’s fantastic.”
5) Michael Nyman – “An Eye For Optical Theory” (from the soundtrack to Man On Wire) – “This has been song #1 on my workout mix for about six months and I haven’t felt the need to change it yet. It’s probably from a Peter Greenaway film that I haven’t seen. It’s so fast-paced and yet so minimal in its changes, which is exactly how I feel when I’m on the running machine. That’s the first time I’ve ever made that connection!”